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  • Writer's pictureElle Cecil

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

Helping Them Navigate The World Of Social Media And Beyond

The abundance of technological advances over the last two decades has seen a new wave of communication introduced to society. Social media is now a staple in the lives of many people, and you’d be hard pressed to find somebody without at least one social media account. However, with the explosion of social media’s popularity comes inevitable access and knowledge gained by children and teenagers. Kids these days either have access to a smartphone, or one of their very own. So how do we keep them safe from the perils of the modern-day internet? The simple answer is to educate them. Arm them with knowledge of not only the wonders and benefits of social media, but also the dangers and the downfalls. If they know what to look out for, what to avoid and how to respond in certain situations, then they are better equipped to manage their social media access safely and effectively on their own. The best thing to do as a parent is to create an account of your own and explore how each platform runs. An open line of communication between yourself and your child is vital. You want them to know that you’re there to teach them, learn from them, help them and share with them their adventures on social media. In the event that something serious happens and they can’t handle it on their own, the last thing you want as a parent is for your child to fear being reprimanded and then hide the problem from you. Education and guidance will help your child safely explore social media. Instagram and Snapchat are currently the most popular social media platforms. Snapchat allows kids to send an image to friends before it disappears after 10 seconds and Instagram is a photo-sharing platform, where users can customise their profiles with images they like. Instagram accounts can be set to private, where a user must request access to content. Most social media platforms have age limits that are usually 13 years and above; however, this isn’t generally enforced, and children can lie about their age. The danger of these platforms is that they both have messaging functions, where users can directly converse with each other. Our advice? Learn how each platform works, teach your child about location and privacy settings on the apps and on smartphones in general, and keep an eye on their friends lists or followers. Blocking and reporting users or content is also a function on both apps, which often comes in handy. Be responsive and receptive about social media with your child. Also be wary of strangers contacting your child, as any social media platform can be used by scammers posing as talent scouts. Remember that a reputable brand will never use social media messaging as a primary form of communication. They may use it to obtain the name of your agent, or an email for contact, but never organise a full shoot. If they do contact you always check that the profile is an official channel of their brand, and not channels such as snapchat, but channels where conversations can be kept. Sarah Doukas of UK Modelling Agency Storm Management says the ‘sophistication of social media makes it easier for scammers to target unsuspecting users. “Young people and their parents… must be vigilant and defensive – do not trust anyone until you have established that they are legitimate, and do your research,” she said to The Guardian. Social media use amongst young people depends on what is the most popular platform. The most recent craze amongst kids on social media is TikTok: the short-form video sharing platform, created by Chinese-owned ByteDance in 2017. Popular for its dance crazes, challenges and enticing visual filters and audio effects, TikTok hit 1.5 billion downloads on iOS and Android app stores in November 2019, according to app analytics site Sensor Tower. Kids posting TikToks often do so in the hope of ‘going viral’, much like TikTok influencers Charli D’Amelio and Loren Gray, who have launched lucrative careers from their huge followings. TikTok’s age limit is 13 years, however they do offer TikTok for Younger Users; a restricted form of access for those under 13, where there are restrictions on sharing content, interaction with other users and gaining followers. The basic function of this version of TikTok is to allow younger kids to watch others’ TikToks. This version of TikTok is activated when a user enters their birthdate into the ‘Sign Up’ option and is less than 13-years-old. TikTok seems innocent enough, but its parent company ByteDance was fined $5.7 million USD after violating the United States’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. According to the United States’ Federal Trade Commission, there were allegations that TikTok had been illegally collecting the names, addresses, schools and email addresses of children under 13, without consent. Parents can combat similar issues by limiting the amount of information children share on their accounts. Keeping an eye on the content children are viewing and posting would also be worthwhile, as well as accounts that they follow and are followed by. Like all great things, social media comes with a catch. Kids can enjoy using these platforms, they just need to know how to safely conduct themselves online. In general, some basic tips for parents are to set children’s accounts to private, allow only friends to send them and view their content, block and report inappropriate content or profiles, and monitor the interactions, information and images your children share online.

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